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Imponderables(R): Fun and Games (Collins Gem)
By David Feldman
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 David Feldman
All right reserved.
Why Are Rented Bowling Shoes So Ugly?
We know that taste in art is a subjective matter. We are aware that whole books have been written about what colors best reflect our personalities and which colors go best with particular skin tones.
But on some things a civilized society must agree. And rented bowling shoes are ugly. Does anybody actually believe that maroon-blue-and-tan shoes best complement the light wood grain of bowling lanes or the black rubber of bowling balls?
Bruce Pluckhahn, curator of the National Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum, told us that at one time "the black shoe--like the black ball--was all that any self-respecting bowler would be caught dead using." Now, most rented bowling shoes are tricolored. The poor kegler is more likely to be dressed like Courtney Love (on a bad day) than Walter Ray Williams.
We spoke to several shoe manufacturers who all agreed that their three-tone shoes were not meant to be aesthetic delights. The weird color combinations are designed to discourage theft. First, the colors are so garish, so ugly, that nobody wants to steal them. And second, if the rare pervert does try to abscond with the shoes, the colors are so blaring and recognizable that there is a good chance to foil the thief.
Of course, rented bowling shoes get abused daily.A bowling proprietor is lucky if a pair lasts a year. Gordon W. Murrey, president of bowling supply company Murrey International, told Imponderables that the average rental shoe costs a bowling center proprietor about $25 to $50 a pair. The best shoes may get rented five hundred times before falling apart, at a very profitable $2 per rental.
Even if rentals were a dignified shade of brown, instead of black, tan, and red, they would get scuffed and bruised just the same. Bowlers don't expect fine Corinthian leather. But can't the rented bowling shoes look a littler classier, guys? Isn't a huge 9 on the back of the heel enough to discourage most folks from stealing a shoe?
Submitted by Shane Coswith of Reno, Nevada.
Why Does Mickey Mouse Have Four Fingers?
Or more properly, why does Mickey Mouse have three fingers and one thumb on each hand? In fact, why is virtually every cartoon animal beset with two missing digits?
Conversations with many cartoonists, animators, and Disney employees confirm what we were at first skeptical about. Mickey Mouse has four fingers because it is convenient for the artists and animators who have drawn him. In the early cartoons, each frame was hand-drawn by an animator--painstaking and tedious work. No part of the human anatomy is harder to draw than a hand, and it is particularly difficult to draw distinct fingers without making the whole hand look disproportionately large.
The artists who drew Mickey were more than happy to go along with any conceit that saved them some work. So in Disney and most other cartoons, the animals sport a thumb and three fingers, while humans, such as Snow White and Cinderella, are spared the amputation.
And before anyone asks--no, we don't know for sure which of Mickey's fingers got lopped off for the sake of convenience. Since the three nonthumbs on each hand are symmetrical, we'd like to think it was the pinkie that was sacrificed.
Submitted by Elizabeth Frenchman of Brooklyn, New York.
Thanks also to R. Gonzales of Whittier, California.
Why Do Quarterbacks Call the Snap with the Exclamation "Hut"?
Put men in a uniform. Give them a helmet. And they all start speaking alike. At least, that's what all of our football sources claimed. Pat Harmon, historian at the College Football Hall of Fame, was typical:
In Army drills, the drill sergeant counts off: "Hut-2-3-4." He repeats "Hut-2-3-4" until the men get in right. Football language has copied the drill sergeant.
We'll have to believe our football authorities, since no evidence exists that the "hut" barked by quarterbacks has anything to do with little thatched houses.
In fact, "hut" wasn't always used as the signal. Joe Horrigan, of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, sent us a photocopy of a section of the 1921 Spalding's How to Play Football manual that indicates that perhaps we aren't as hip as our forbears:
When shift formations are tried, the quarter-back should give his signal when the men are in their original places. Then after calling the signal [he] can use the word "hip" for the first shift and then repeat for the players to take up their new positions on the line of scrimmage.
Our guess is that the only important virtue of "hut" is that it contains one syllable.
Submitted by Paul Ruggiero of Blacksburg, Virginia.
Why Are the Commercials Louder than the Programming on Television?
Having lived in apartments most of our adult lives, we developed a theory about this Imponderable. Let us use a hypothetical example to explain our argument.
Let's say a sensitive, considerate yet charismatic young man--we'll call him "Dave"--is taking a brief break from his tireless work to watch TV late at night. As an utterly sympathetic and empathic individual, "Dave" puts the volume at a low level so as not to wake the neighbors who are divided from him by tissue-thin walls. Disappointed that "Masterpiece Theatre" is not run at 2:00 AM, "Dave" settles for a rerun of "Hogan's Heroes." While he is studying the content of the show to determine what the character of Colonel Klink says about our contemporary society, a used-car commercial featuring a screaming huckster comes on at a much louder volume.
What does "Dave" do? He goes up to the television and lowers the volume. But then the show comes back on, and "Dave" can't hear it. Ordinarily, "Dave" would love to forgo watching such drivel, so that he could go back to his work as, say, a writer. But he is now determined to ascertain the sociological significance of "Hogan's Heroes." So for the . . .
Excerpted from Imponderables(R): Fun and Games (Collins Gem) by David Feldman Copyright © 2006 by David Feldman. Excerpted by permission.
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